Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova

I have found a poet I love.  Perhaps it was bound to happen sooner or later, considering my determination, but part of me feared that poetry was going to be another of those areas where my tastes are not the norm...that I'd remain the unfulfilled oddball in the corner, wondering what was wrong with me (I like to write poetry, why on earth don't I like to read it?)  Thankfully, it was just a matter of finding the right poet.

Vera Pavlova is a Russian poet whose work is translated by her husband, Steven Seymour.  (As a side note, my Russian friends inform me that Americans always stress the wrong syllable in Russian names...it isn't Pav-LO-va, but PAV-lo-va...maybe someday I'll get it right on the first go round.)  It's refreshing to experience a view of life from a different culture.  The only downside to having a favorite poet who writes in a foreign language is that I am unable to enjoy all that she has written.  If There is Something to Desire is her first full-length volume to be published in English, and I'm crossing my fingers (and hoping) that it won't be the last.

Praised for her succinct directness, I find that her little thoughts are often a combination of heartbreak and whimsy.
Why is the word yes so brief?
It should be
the longest,
the hardest,
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it.
Somehow she manages to encapsulate so much in so few words, making this volume of 100 small poems highly re-readable.  There were only a handful that really grabbed me at the time of reading, but I have a feeling that I will gain new favorites through the years.  This is a volume that will stay on my shelf only to be pulled down again and again--I love the way she looks at the world.
Basked in the sun,
listened to birds,
licked off raindrops,
and only in flight
the leaf saw the tree
and grasped
what it had been.
Pavlova's poems are easy to appreciate (some more than others) and worth checking out.  I think my favorite of the collection--because I'm a goof and this just tickles my fancy--is this brief statement:
I have brushed my teeth.
This day and I are even.
This is poetry I can love.  A little humor, and somehow a lot of back-story--it sets my imagination rolling!  Light and dark, quick yet lasting.  What do you think of these three poems?  How do they compare to other poetry you may be familiar with?  As always, I'm open to recommendations!  This volume gives me hope of finding other favorites out there...this journey into poetry is becoming much more exciting.

Title: If There is Something to Desire
Author: Vera Pavlova
Pages: 128
Published: 2010 Knopf
My Rating: 4.5 stars


  1. I love the poems you've shared! I've just started reading poetry (for the first time -it was torture in high school). I won the anthology Poetry Speaks Who I Am and loved it. Since then I've been experimenting with a wide variety of poets, but enjoy the simple directness like these.

  2. Thanks for sharing this-Pavlova's poetry is so direct and juicy, I love it. And now I know my Russian pronunciation could use some work!

  3. I've always had a hard time appreciating poetry. I think this is mostly because I've never found a poet that I truly understand and connect with. Pavlova definitely sounds like a great modern poet to check out. Thanks for sharing!

  4. JoAnn, I'm glad you liked them! I need to explore some anthologies, but keep resisting them for some reason. Maybe because they are HUGE and it scares me a little. :/ I'll look into the one you mentioned!

    Lisa, isn't it fun? I first discovered my pronunciation problems when I was reading The Master and Margarita...turns out Bulgakov isn't pronounced BUL-ga-kov but Bul-GA-kov. Sigh.

    Jenna, I've always been the same way...most poetry I just don't connect with. But I'm determined to keep looking. There has got to be more people out there that think like me, right? We'll see. :)

  5. Thanks to some shady English teachers in my past I have an intense dislike for poetry...makes me feel dumb. During my grad school classes, however, I happened upon the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and realized that enjoying poetry is just a matter of finding something that speaks to you...almost like songs we never forget :) So glad you found this for yourself :)

  6. Peppermint Ph.D, I have found the same thing and I think you said it well: "that enjoying poetry is just a matter of finding something that speaks to you". I always felt (and find that many people do feel) that poetry was just over my head, but there really are so many different styles of poetry. My husband is not a poetry person (or even much of a literature person), but I showed him some of Margaret Atwood's poetry, and he loved it.

    I just wish it was easier to find different poets. It's easy to find classics or what's popular with academia, not as easy to find other stuff.

  7. Dear Melody, I am glad you liked my little poems.
    Have you come across my site (verapavlova.us)? Just as you, I hope this book of mine in English will not be the last one.
    With best wishes,

    Vera Pavlova

  8. What a treat to get a comment from you. I enjoyed your poems thoroughly--thank you for directing me to your site. I am glad you found my blog, and look forward to reading more of your poetry in the future. :)


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